The dark underbelly of online ‘safety’

This morning’s Observer column:

Alarmed by this, the companies have been bragging about the number of extra staff they are recruiting to deal with the [‘inappropriate content’] problem. Facebook, for example, is hiring 10,000 extra people to work on “safety and security generally” – which means that by the end of 2018 it will have 20,000 people working in this area. And YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, announced her goal of “bringing the total number of people across Google working to address content that might violate our policies to over 10,000 in 2018”.

What these impressive-sounding commitments do not specify is how many of the new hires will be actual employees and how many will be merely contractors. My hunch is the latter. A more important question – and one we have all shamefully ignored until now – is what kind of work will they be required to do, and under what conditions?

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